Standing on the roof of our Jeep somewhere near the Kenyan borders in Tanzania, I contemplated the photographer in her. The camera is in both hands. She seems totally overwhelmed with this wildlife all around us. I turned left to look away in the endless savannah. It is still hard to believe that we were standing so close to the female elephant and her son, which is analyzing us with a curious eye…
Looking for practical tips for your Safari in Tanzania? Check our recommendation based on our experience
How it started for Tanzania
It was a couple of months earlier that my beloved wife once said to me: “You know what? I am thinking about taking some weeks off and go somewhere for a volunteering experience.” Honestly, I didn’t take her seriously in the beginning. I believed her even less when she added, “And I think I am gonna do it in Tanzania because I really want to overcome my zoophobia, the animal-fear I got since my childhood. And I want you to be with me the first week out there“.
By that time, I was in the middle of a career change. So she took care of the trip organization. If we can call it so. Plane ticket booked 10 days before the trip. Guest family and volunteer mission found even later, I think one week before or so. Though last but not least, we can’t visit Tanzania without a Safari experience. So she found a good guide with a reasonable price a couple of days before.
As usual, all went so fast, and we found ourselves hitting the road to Arusha, where we will spend our first night in Tanzania.
Part 1: Meeting Wildlife in Tanzania
As a lucky jetlag-free person, I directly went out for a walk around the city. Arusha was our first sub-Saharan African city. We directly fell in love with its Hakuna Matata lifestyle (means no worries). The first night was then spent in local markets and in front of street food stands. We would have loved to spend more time smiling back at the friendly people and enjoying the street food, but tomorrow is the first day of our 3-day safari trip.
Lake Manyara National Park
Around 8:00, Paul was already there, and he drove us to our guide, who was having breakfast in a local restaurant. We quickly joined him eating, and we packed our lunch. One hour later, we were on the way to Lake Manyara, our first national park to visit. This stop is a must in each Tanzania itinerary. I heard a lot about this lake and how famous it is for birds all over East Africa. “Shit, we need to close the roof!” Said my wife when we just arrived and spotting the first monkey. I was like, “Man, a Safari with a closed roof? What a journey-start!”. I was relieved when she finally took her courage, and we kept it open.
When we reached the lake, I almost didn’t believe my eyes when we first saw the bird’s population hanging out there. Crazy how dynamic and active the area is. I was blown away and wanted just to step out of the car and run over there. Oh wait, one of the big 5 Safari animals is staring at me from the right side. Buffalo, they really hate humans. Anyone knows why?
We drove further across the lake. Our guide, Eric, was not very talkative, though he had an excellent eye. He spots the best places around and knows so well where to find what. I was in paradise. I guess my addiction to nature and wild animals is now even bigger. Please leave me here, and you won’t have to worry about me anymore 🙂
Ngorongoro National Park
This one has been our favorite, and it is one of the great landmarks in Africa. Ngorongoro is the best place if you want to combine scenic landscapes with wildlife. The crater it has got inside and the Massai living not so far from making it unique. We visited this park on our second day. But I think it needs more. I am kinda running out of words here. So I’m just gonna let the pictures I took speak from themselves.
We were on off-season (as usual), and we almost saw no other safari trips on our way. I still remember so well that loud silence we hear when we stop the Jeep for a while and have a close look at the wildlife not caring about us. It’s crazy how we quickly forget how beautiful and simple our planet is. “Isn’t it just us who are making it so complicated ?” We were telling ourselves.
Tarangire National Park
Our third day was officially elephant day. Tarangire is most famous for elephants and baobab trees. I guess you are now wondering about what they are. Baobab trees are one of the most iconic landscapes in Africa. In this park, you might also have the chance to see Hippopotamus. However, they are usually shy and covered in water.
I can remember the famous mystical story our guide told us about it. When God was adding the finishing touches to the world, he knew that he needed to create something useful in Africa. Water would always be a problem on the continent, so he came up with the baobab. The plan was to make the tree hollow at the top to store water after the rains. God was very proud of this creation, but the devil did not find it so great. So the devil took his revenge by turning all the trees upside down. So if you look at a baobab, you will notice that it looks like the roots are sticking up into the sky, the hollow part now being in the lower part of the tree.
The cloudy day gave the park a mystical mood. Its bright landscapes, the elephants, and the Boabab trees were different from what we have seen so far. I just loved it. Rym, on the other side, had mixed feelings. She was struggling between enjoying the wildlife and fearing it at the same time. Especially when we spent last night watching cheetah safari attacks videos on youtube. For me, it was amazing.
If you are still looking for more inspiration, look at this nice post about which itinerary to take in Tanzania, including Zanzibar. Rym went to Zanzibar after our Safari trip and had there a great experience, including dining in the rock restaurant.
Zanzibar is actually much more than that. The island has an Afro-Arabic culture, which is very rare to find elsewhere.
Sharing with you now our itinerary
Part 2: Meeting the Guest Family in Arusha
“Man, this was so fast. It’s like waking up from a dream, a wild one,” Said I to Rym on our way to the guest family where she will live during her volunteer experience. The village is not far away from Mount Meru, a respectful mountain near its big brother Kilimanjaro. People say here it’s more challenging to climb Mount Meru than Kilimajaro. As a mountain freak, maybe I will try both one time and tell you more about them 🙂 In all cases, you will need preparation to climb Kilimanjaro.
Time goes fast. I murmured to myself. I was lost in my ideas as I was sitting on the plane back home by myself. Actually, it was intense. Especially the last weekend I could spend with the awesome guest family, where Rym will volunteer for a couple of weeks. It was a place full of young smiling pure souls but also with many animals around… What an experience she was about to live. An experience which deserves its own post 😉
Backpacking in Tanzania is such an enriching country in terms of culture and nature. While planning your trip, think about climbing Kili and make sure you are ready to do it. It is an amazing experience and really worth it for nature lovers. Ensure as well that you create a complete packing list for climbing Kilimanjaro.
This is it, guys. If you are in the middle of planning your Africa trip, think about planning a trip to Uganda. If you have any questions. Please put them in the comments, and I will get in touch with you right away.
Best, Ash & Rym